Written by Robin Knowles, CEO, Digital Leaders
We opened registration for Digital Leaders Week 14-18 June 2021 this week. With 200+ events and counting, across 15 topics and from the whole UK offering 30,000 free places, we are still continuing to receive more talks and registrations each day. See more here.
I find myself wondering if this virtual version of Digital Leaders Week is the new normal. Will we go back to events as they were before COVID-19, or will virtual online events remain a major part of professional events in the UK and beyond?
This is the second time since lockdown we are running the week entirely online, and you can attend a talk, conference or session that will help you and your network to transform their organisation without having to leave your home desk.
After more than a year, we can list the clear benefits of running virtual events:
- Access to experts – most of us organising events virtually know we have access to a lot more speakers, who are busier and from further away than when meeting face to face. The ask is 30-60 minutes of their day, from their chosen location – versus a half day or whole day travelling to a venue to speak from a stage.
- Choice – Far be it from me to say that your face to face audience is not focussed on each and every speaker on the stage, but the lit faces in the darkness of an auditorium tells you that they are just as distracted by their phone and laptop as an online audience, but online they watch the talks they need, without committing wholly to a full day event.
- On demand – the content created at an online event can be recorded and made available afterwards on-demand for digital pennies, compared to the analogue pounds needed to record a live event. This gives the event greater longevity and follow up when compared to an on-stage conference day.
- Inclusivity – Online audiences are almost always larger and from a wider geography than face to face events offering more inclusive participation from areas of the UK a long way from and not well connected to say a London conference venue – welcome Shetland!;
- Improved accessibility – Being able to access a conference from home or your desk is something far more of us can now do well. No longer is an online event seen as a novelty;
- Reduced costs for both delegates and organisers. Ticket price, zero travel and no hotels for delegates; and for the event organisers, no venue hires, stands to build, AV, stages or catering to buy means savings of 90%.
- Better productivity – sending a team member to a conference can mean a whole day or more away from work – this might be a worthwhile investment , but now you can make that binary decision, knowing online is available;
- Environmental impact – whether in reduced travel or reduced waste – these are important reductions in the carbon footprint of events well beyond the token gestures of recycling our lanyards as we leave the venue.
- Rapidly improving user experience – the user experience of online conferencing tools like our own #Digilounge, Remo, Hopin, Airmeet and others, will mean that they continue to overcome any shortcoming they might currently have and of course there are opportunities for Hybrid options a topic for my next blog https://www.shoreditchvirtual.com/
- Sponsors can still have a great experience – what they loose in handing out business cards, grabbing people as they get their lunch and showing a live demo on their stand is being replaced by access the whole audience in real time, networking and running showcases on stage.
So it’s a good list of benefits, but will they be outweighed by the benefits of a move back to face to face events?
Well, I suspect there will be an initial moment when those who are part of and heavily invested in the pre-covid style events industry will try and convince us of the benefits of being face to face again. However, like going out to dinner, hugging friends and returning to our offices, we will all be keen to give it a go again.
I do believe that after that initial period of elation and novelty in doing what we used to do, that a more analytical appraisal of the costs and benefits of face to face as opposed to virtual events will come into play.
Where networking is the focus or where celebration is the goal, as at awards, that these will return to being face to face again, as will events where the topic is hyper local and meant for a local audience.
However, I do believe that for the vast majority of events, that the organiser, whether for in-house or external events, will be expected to clearly demonstrate that the value of an event being face to face outweighs the benefits of and large savings associated with running that event online.
So in a year’s time will DLWeek be online? Well I would say not entirely, but I do believe that online will form the far largest proportion of the types of events taking place in 2022.
I would like to know what are your experiences of the benefits of online events? What are your thoughts on returning to face to face events? Please let me know in the comments section below and I hope to meet you taking part at #DLWeek 2021 online.
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